Marriage Counseling and Midlife Crisis

Posted by: Dr. Justin D'Arienzo, Psy.D., ABPP

Marriage Counseling and Midlife Crisis

Marriage Counseling and Midlife Crisis was written by our Psychology Student, Michael Nackashi, September 2012.

We have all heard of the term “midlife crisis,” maybe because it is an easy subject to joke about for comedians and moviemakers, or maybe because we refer to the term anytime somebody in midlife makes an impulsive decision to better his life.  All of these very different perspectives contribute to a very broad, less serious societal definition of the term midlife crisis.  Yes, the jokes and references are funny; there is no doubt about that, but the jokes should not define the term for a person actually faced with the brutal realizations of midlife.  Instead, no matter how badly people want to refer to it as a crisis, researchers stress the idea that this “crisis” is expected, which makes it more of a stage in the natural pattern of life.

For most people, what is called a midlife crisis is actually an emotional transition that happens at midlife, between ages 40 and 60.  However, anybody can have symptoms of this emotional transition at any point in their life, but it seems to be most prevalent between those ages.  So, what are the symptoms of the midlife transition?  It is a time where a person is faced with the understanding that life is halfway over, and they are forced to reevaluate their priorities, goals and achievements.  They suddenly become unhappy with the lifestyle they are leading and feel an overwhelming urge for change or adventure.  This overwhelming need for change usually leads to impulsive decisions in order to achieve immediate gratification like financial irresponsibility, change in profession, infidelity or even divorce.  These impulsive decisions, although satisfying in the moment, end up making the problem worse.  Now, for some, these symptoms could be much more rooted, and could be emphasized if they were already experiencing stress with work or a relationship.  The biggest fear with the midlife transition is that it could lead to serious depression, in which case “crisis” would be an appropriate term.  Most people, who haven’t already gone through a midlife transition, often shrug it off as being no big deal.  I believe that is the first step toward experiencing a crisis rather than a transition.

Where society sees crisis, psychologists see an opportunity to grow, an opportunity to learn skills of acceptance and goal setting that will help them overcome not only the midlife crisis or transition, but also similar problems in the future.  I like to think of going through a midlife transition as working out a muscle, at first the muscle will tear, but it will repair itself to be stronger so that it can handle the weight next time.  Going through a midlife transition, depending on how it is handled, could be a great learning experience or it could be a stressful period that could change a person completely.  When seeing a psychologist  or counselor about the issue, they aim toward giving the patient a clear understanding of who he or she was, who he or she is and who he or she wants to be.  A psychologist, counselor, or therapist can help patients organize and think rationally about their priorities, goals and achievements; it is because of irrational thought that people make impulsive decisions to achieve immediate gratification.  A psychologist has proved to be very helpful when guiding people out of their midlife transition or crisis to be a stronger person.

If a midlife crisis is impacting you personally or your relationship help is available in the form of individual therapy, marriage counseling, couples counseling, and life coaching at the D’Arienzo Psychological Group.